Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some Year-End Mop-Up

The Christmas break came at exactly the right time last week. Over the course of four days, it snowed twice, rained hard for one day, and then came ice and snow before it turned colder again. We got a little break early this week, though, so work can continue.

The major project is moving the main admission buildings into place at the relocated main gate. These are the largest buildings to be moved in this year’s project, so extra care is needed to make sure we don’t put strain on the walls, floors and roof beams. We hope to have that completed this week – weather permitting, of course.

In the vintage aircraft area, we’re forming concrete for the base of the new workshops building near the Vintage “Red Barn.” We’ll tell you more about that in the coming weeks. It’ll be a nice addition to replace the tents there.

This week also gives a chance to answer a couple more questions. Another tree question: Could any uses be made for any trees that were cut down during the project? First off, you’ll be happy to know that we didn’t cut any of the big oak or hickory trees on the site. We worked around them. The ash trees that could be moved were taken to some of the areas I described in earlier posts. We did have to cut a few that were too large to be moved but too small to be taken for wood products. Those will go in the firewood pile.

If you want to help save trees on the site, let me add this: Please, please do not bring your own firewood to AirVenture in 2009. There’s a real threat from the emerald ash borer (shown below) traveling in firewood brought from other states.

This insect could really hurt our trees on the grounds. So please obtain your firewood from local Oshkosh sources, since the ash borer hasn’t come to our area in great numbers yet.

Next question: With all the emphasis on the new main gate, will the other entry gates still be operating in 2009? Yes, they will. The gates near the warbird area and the Green and Red auto parking lots will be still be open because of the changing flow of visitors each day on the site. Eventually that may change, but not in 2009.

Thanks for reading and for your questions, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Inside Job (or Two)

Our outdoor activities this week have been limited due to snow removal and clearing. This has been one wild month for winter weather. I’m sure just about everybody in the northern half of the U.S. agrees. I saw they even had snow in Las Vegas last week!

Maybe next week we can get back to moving buildings. Since the weather and the holiday week have pretty well stopped any outdoor site activities, I'll tell you a little more about what you'll see at AirVenture 2009 inside the EAA AirVenture Museum.

Thousands of people come through the museum during AirVenture. One of the new areas making its grand opening during AirVenture 2009 is the new Founder’s Wing. This will be in the area that formerly housed the museum’s restoration shop.

This area will have two levels: The upper level will showcase EAA’s history and have some of the early archives of the organization. This will be on an overlook that will be accessible from the museum’s mezzanine. On the lower level will be a large public space for presentations, receptions and so forth. It gives us additional space and saves us from having to move airplanes in and out every time an event takes place in the museum.

Construction is coming along very well, as you see below.

Some of the archives previously housed in that area will also be moving. Two archives rooms have been built in the area that was formerly the Goldwater Conference Room, just down the stairs from the museum’s main entrance. One of the rooms will be for paper archives, while other will be used for photo and video archives. This project also creates a new entrance for the Vette Theater, which is a popular presentation area during AirVenture.

All this means we have quite a few staff members who are working out of temporary quarters this winter while all these projects are going on. It’s been a hectic few months both inside and out.

Finally, Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And the drifts keep on coming…

Another week, another snowstorm coming to Oshkosh. We spent the past few days working quickly, as more snow is predicted for the end of the week. It was below-zero this morning, so again a lot of credit goes to the crews working in the elements. Also, I want to give credit to EAA photographer Bonnie Kratz, who stomped around in the cold to get these photos.

Quite a bit of our work centered on the new location of the Flymarket, which is just south and west of Exhibit Hangar D. This location works well for several reasons: It’s close to Camp Scholler and Showplane Camping, and shoppers will no longer have to dodge vehicles when crossing Waukau Avenue. We also have the opportunity to lay in new electrical wiring for the exhibitors there.

It’s kind of interesting how the underground utilities are being installed. Instead of traditional trenching through the frost layer, a special machine actually sucks dirt out of the ground, creating an opening where the lines can be run. These guys are placing the lines in the Flymarket exhibit area.

Other activities this week included installing fencing near the new Flymarket site. That is cold stuff to handle when the temperature is in the single digits. The photo below shows the fence and the Flymarket area looking toward the control tower from the southwest.

The newly relocated computer operations building has also been moved to the new main gate. That was an interesting project, too, since there’s not a lot of give in the wood when it’s this cold. The movers have to be extra careful to make sure everything is level when moving and lowering the structure. It’s just one of more than a dozen buildings that must be relocated in this first stage of the site plan.

I thought I’d throw in one extra photo in this week. We’re getting a lot of practice moving snow so far this winter, such as here in Camp Scholler. And we hear there’s more to come!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It’s Been Snow Going…

Wow … it’s already been a heck of a week here on the grounds. Starting Monday afternoon, the snow front moved in. By Tuesday afternoon, we had about 10 inches of new snow. Most of the maintenance crew spent some long hours moving snow around, especially since we had the museum’s big “Christmas in the Air” open house on Monday evening.

On Wednesday, we got some AirVenture site items under way again. The EAA Sweepstakes building was being moved to its new location at the EAA Member Village/Welcome Center intersection just west of AeroShell Square.

That meant plowing pathways for the building movers as they carried the building to its new position, which is where the FLYING Magazine merchandise tent was last year.

The snow is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it makes getting from Point A to Point B much longer on a specific job. For instance, the snow keeps the frost from penetrating too far into the ground, which is good since we still want to pour some concrete before Christmas. It’s bad at the same time because, naturally, you can’t pour concrete over snow. So the snow has to be removed from some of those areas. But then the frost would get into the ground. So we’ve had to put blankets over some of the cleared turf to keep it warm enough to place concrete forms.

This week’s item in the Q&A file is about shade: We’ve been asked about additional trees on the site. One thing we’ve been able to do is move dozens of trees from areas that are being developed and place them in public gathering areas that needed more shade.

For instance, in 2009 you’ll additional shade trees near Exhibit Hangar A, near the food court next to the Wearhouse and in other areas. We lost fewer than 10 of those trees during the move – some were too big to be moved safely – and we believe the moved trees will do well come next spring.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Digging Holes, Setting Buildings

Last week was a little slower time on the grounds for a couple of reasons: First, the Thanksgiving Day break, and second, many crew members were on the annual weeklong holiday here in Wisconsin known as deer hunting season.

Still, there were some items that got done. We started installing the perimeter fencing near the new main gate. During AirVenture, many people don’t even notice the fence because of all the entry points to the grounds. But it’s part of the requirements for airport properties these days, and Winnebago County is no exception when it comes to Wittman Regional Airport. We’re trying to get the fence placed before the frost seeps too far into the ground.

We’re also expecting to set some of the buildings into their new positions near the main gate later this week, weather permitting. This includes the main-gate admission buildings and the computer operations building.

We’re interested to see what we discover in some of the buildings come spring. Each fall, some of the portable buildings (or the spaces underneath them) become handy winter dens for all sorts of wildlife, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, and the like. This fall, though, there’s been much more human activity on the grounds than usual, so we haven’t seen as many of these creatures holing up on the grounds. We’ve seen a white owl on the grounds near the old tower this week, probably looking for the mice that make their nests in some of the buildings.

Finally, in the Q&A file: Another question I’ve received is what will happen to a section of campsites on Doolittle Road, near where the Fly-In Theater has been for the past three years. Some of the thousands of site-plan comments we received during AirVenture last summer helped us find a solution to preserve that area. So it will remain. It’s not always possible to keep certain areas as-is when a site is undergoing such a massive change, but it’s gratifying when we can find a solution in a particular area.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some new looks

There was new snow covering the grounds this morning, which took us a little by surprise. For the maintenance crews, that meant the first practice of the winter drill: Get out the plows and move snow from all the driveways and parking lots.

Before the snow arrived, we received these photos from Bob Lumley, who is a Vintage Aircraft Association board member. These were taken last Saturday (Nov. 22) and give an excellent view on some of what you’ll be seeing next year.

This first photo shows a view generally from west to east. Near the bottom right of the photo, you’ll see the new main gate area near the bottom of the ‘V’, and the new Forest Home Avenue that will bend around it. One other thing in the lower left of the photo: Note how much larger the bus stop circle is compared to past years. That will ease the congestion at prime times, such as after the air show each day. We're also moving the museum shuttle to this location to eliminate the confusion when there are two bus stop areas close to one another.

The second photo is a view from south to north. One thing to point out here is the new exhibit area just north of AeroShell Square. Such well-known facilities as the Chapter House, Young Eagles Building, Lost-And-Found, International Visitors Tent and more will be relocated for 2009. As those locations are finalized, we’ll have more details for you on exact locations.

I promised I’d answer a question or two when I can, so here’s the first one: Is there a larger map that will show the site plan in its entirety? The answer is yes, and we’re working to get one posted as soon as possible. We’re trying to do one better, too, by posting a map that will show what you can generally expect on the grounds just in 2009, while also describing what might be coming in future years.

Finally, I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Late Fall Setting In

The ground construction crews finished work at the end of last week, right on schedule. The electrical work in the new Fly Market location is also wrapping up. Freezing temperatures and cold rain showers are making it tough to work outside, but that’s Wisconsin in November.

The only thing that we didn’t get finished as hoped was some of the grass seeding. That will have to wait until spring. The frost is already starting to take hold in the ground and we’ve seen snow flurries over the past two weeks. I give the crews a lot of credit for hanging in there even as the temps dropped.

As you can see, the main thoroughfares from the new main gate have been covered and now give three distinct pathways to different areas on the grounds. It’s interesting to look down each of these walkways and see the new views. These aren’t the only entryways to the grounds, of course, but this main gate will help create a little more freedom of movement once you enter.

We’ll start erecting the chain-link fence in the main gate area this week. We could have a chance to pour a few of the concrete pads for buildings, too. We may also begin placing some of the buildings that have been up on blocks for the past two months, such as the main gate admission buildings, IAC headquarters, and so forth.

That’s kind of touch-and-go, though, since we may wait for the weather to turn colder so the ground freezes. That would limit the amount of ruts and battered turf we have to fix next spring. When the temps get cold, the hard ground lets heavy machinery move more easily, but the frost in the ground causes other problems. It’s always something, isn’t it?

Also, I've received several questions along with some of the posted comments you'll see here. We'll be answering those in coming posts. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Playing With Trucks and Dirt

I’m a pretty cool guy to my two young sons right now, because they think Dad is playing in the greatest sandbox ever. It is pretty incredible when I look around the site, especially the 200 acres or so that is directly affected by the first part of the AirVenture site plan work. The look changes each day with the heavy machines running around out here, so it’s a very exciting time on the grounds.

Some parts of the project have already been talked about, such as the new pedestrian routes that give someone coming to AirVenture a choice of three paths to unique destinations when they first walk through the main gate.

But today, I want to talk about stormwater drainage. That may sound dull, but the system going in here is state-of-the-art stuff. It’s been used in the eastern U.S. but never in a project of this scale. Last week we finished filling a 230,000-cubic foot underground retention area with clear stone. This is in addition to underground “cells” below the new walkways that will drain rainwater from those areas and into the large retention area. That storm water will then naturally drain into the groundwater system and head toward Lake Winnebago, instead of overwhelming ditches and ponds on the site.

More than 2,000 truckloads of stone were brought onto the site to fill the cells and large retention area. The best part is that when it’s all done, you won’t even notice it. You’ll walk over the cells under the new thoroughfares. The new Fly Market and exhibit spaces southwest of Exhibit Hangar D will stand over the underground retention area. The underground location will eliminate the problems with large above-ground retention ponds, such as algae and bugs.

I’ll be telling you a lot more about the project in the coming weeks. Right now, though, I’m heading back to the big sandbox.